Frequently Asked Questions
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an increasingly popular system of natural
medicine, based on the principle that any substance that
can cause illness can also be a cure. Two centuries old,
its practice has enjoyed wide popularity among millions of
individuals looking for safe and effective ways to treat
illness, as well as to improve their health.
Homeopathy is based on the principle of
"like cures like" – that is, if a substance
can cause symptoms of disease in a healthy person then it
can cure a sick person suffering from similar symptoms.
For example, everyone knows that chopping an onion makes
your eyes sting and water and your nose run and burn. A
homeopathic preparation of the humble onion, Allium
cepa, may be used to cure patients with a cold or
hayfever if they too have stinging, watery eyes and a
runny, burning nose.
How does the concept of homeopathy
differ from that of conventional medicine?
The homeopath regards symptoms as the body’s healthy
attempt to restore itself to balance. That is why a
homeopath will choose a remedy that supports the symptoms
– rather than opposing them or suppressing them as in
conventional medicine. In conventional medicine, the cold
or hayfever sufferer is given an antihistamine to dry up
the runny nose and watery eyes artificially. Unpleasant
side effects like sleepiness and constipation often
result. With the correct homeopathic remedy, however,
there are no side effects and a person is restored to
health naturally with an attendant sense of well-being.
Homeopathy recognizes that each person
manifests his or her dis-ease in a unique and slightly
different way. That is why two people with the same
diseases will not necessarily receive the same homeopathic
remedy. A cold sufferer with a stopped up nose and dry
eyes would receive a different remedy than the one with a
runny nose and watering eyes. Unlike the "one size
fits all" approach of to prescribing often used in
conventional medicine, a homeopath chooses a remedy that
matches the unique symptom profile of the individual.
Conventional wisdom seeks to control
illness through the regular use of medications; if the
medicine is withdrawn, the person’s symptoms return. For
example, the daily use of drugs for asthma (or any chronic
disease for that matter) alleviates the symptoms but does
not cure the underlying problem.
In homeopathy the ideal is that a person
needs just enough of the homeopathic remedy to stimulate
their healing response. In other words, homeopathy sees to
cure a person so that they do not need any medications –
homeopathic or otherwise.
What is homeopathy’s history?
The principles of homeopathy were formulated by the German
physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Hahnemann found
the conventional medical therapies of his time to be
ineffective and harmful, and discovered, in homeopathy, a
means to help patients without side effects. Homeopathy
spread quickly throughout Europe and the rest of the
world, including the United States. It has a 200-year
history of safety and effectiveness.
What is "classical"
Over the last 200 years many definitions of
"classical" homeopathy have been used. At the
core of nearly all of theses definitions are the following
- The Law of Similars: matching the
symptoms of a medicine tested on healthy humans to the
individual seeking treatment.
- The Minimum Dose: determining the
least amount of medicine needed to effect the needed
- Totality of Symptoms: matching the
complete symptom profile of the patient to the symptom
profile of the remedy.
- Single Remedy: administration of one
remedy at a time.
What are combination remedies?
Some homeopathic products combine several different
homeopathic medicines, each of which is known to be
helpful for a certain condition, in the hope that the
combination will contain the medicine needed by any
individual with that condition. For example, a combination
product for earaches might contain the five most
frequently prescribed homeopathic remedies for earaches.
These combination remedies are often safely and
effectively used for simple acute conditions; however,
they do not constitute classical homeopathy.
Tell me more about homeopathic
Homeopathic medicines are made according to a book of
standards called the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the
United States (HPUS). The HPUS contains all of
the information necessary for the proper identification of
the raw materials used to make homeopathic medicines, as
well as techniques for their manufacture and quality
control. Homeopathic medicines area considered to be drugs
under U.S. federal law, and the Food and Drug
Administration regulates the manufacture, marketing, and
sales of all homeopathic medicines.
Homeopathic medicines are derived from
botanical (plant), mineral, and some animal sources. The
process of preparing a crude substance and making it into
a homeopathic medicine has two fundamental elements:
- Dilution of the substance in measured
steps (serial dilution);
- Vigorous shaking or succussion of the
preparation at each step.
Are homeopathic medicines safe?
Because of the minute doses used in homeopathy, the
medicines are non-toxic. When properly administered, the
medicines are completely safe for everyone including
pregnant women, newborns, children, and adults through the
senior years. Many veterinarians use homeopathy in the
treatment of animals. There are no known or suspected
contraindications or drug interactions between homeopathic
and conventional medicines.
Are homeopathic medicines expensive?
Homeopathic medicines are much less expensive than
conventional medicines, costing on average $4 - $7 per
bottle. Sometimes only a single dose of a medicine is
needed to effect a return to health. The medicines have
extended shelf life and each medicine may be indicated for
several different conditions.
When do I need to go to a professional
Consumers can learn to treat simple first-aid and acute
conditions effectively with the aid of homeopathic
self-care books or by attending homeopathic classes, but
serious, chronic conditions should always be treated by an
experienced homeopathic practitioner.
Who practices homeopathy?
Homeopathy is practiced by a wide variety of healthcare
practitioners, including medical doctors, osteopaths,
naturopathic physicians, nurse practitioners, physician
assistants, dentists, veterinarians, chiropractors,
acupuncturists, nurse midwives, podiatrists, and
Individual states regulate the practice
of homeopath, and each state’s laws and requirements for
practice are different.
Since 2000, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and
California have adopted legislation that allows unlicensed
complementary and alternative health practitioners
(including unlicensed homeopaths) the freedom to practice
as long as they give full disclosure of their training and
background. Efforts are underway in many other states to
adopt similar legislation, and it is expected that more
states will pass such laws in the near future.
What kind of homeopathic training and
certification is there?
Independent post-graduate training programs offer
professional education in homeopathy. Courses range in
length from a weekend to several years. Learning
experiences may be through correspondence courses,
classroom lectures, and/or preceptorships with experienced
homeopaths. In recent years, the Council on Homeopathic
Education has begun certifying the content and structure
of homeopathic courses.
Practitioners may be certified by one of
several certifying organizations, based on their medical
professional status and their homeopathic education. (See www.homeopathicdirectory.com,
the website for the Council for Homeopathic Certification.
This site links to the American Board of Homeotherapeutics,
the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians, and
the North American Society of Homeopaths, all of which are
certifying organizations.) Certification attests that a
practitioner has met certain criteria and developed a
certain level of expertise in homeopathic practice.
A license to practice medicine does not
guarantee that a practitioner is a good homeopath.
Similarly, a well-trained homeopath may not be licensed to
diagnose and treat patients medically. If you have
questions about a specific category of practitioner or a
particular practitioner’s certification, contact the
certifying organization directly for more detailed
information about the qualifications and standards they
employ or for a list of practitioners they have certified.
What happens during a homeopathic
consultation and what does it cost?
The first visit with a homeopath usually lasts one to two
hours. During the visit, the homeopath will review the
patient’s medical history and attempt to elicit a full
picture of the patient’s symptoms – mental, emotional,
and physical. A homeopathic medicine will be chosen to
match the patient’s symptom profile. Scheduling of
follow-up visits will vary depending on the needs of the
patient and the practitioner’s philosophy; intervals of
four to six weeks from the first visit are typical. A
follow-up visit is shorter than the initial visit,
normally lasting 30-60 minutes. The cost of a first visit
to a homeopath varies greatly. It can range from $150 to
$500, depending upon the skills and experience of the
practitioner (and the economic health of the area from
which the practice draws patients). Follow-up visits
typically cost about one-third of the initial visit.
Will my health insurance cover it?
Your health insurance may cover
part or all of your visits to a homeopathic practitioner
if that practitioner has a medical or other health-care
license (M.D., D.C., etc.). It is not likely to cover
visits to an unlicensed practitioner, even if that
homeopath is well-qualified and certified.
[Adapted from the National Center for
Homeopathy, Homeopathy Today, February 2004.]